What are Pot Odds?
You have probably heard of pot odds but maybe you’re not sure what they are or how to calculate them. Don’t worry, everyone has been there. Basically, pot odds are the comparison of the cost of making a call compared to the size of the pot. It is usually expressed as a ratio; however, the far more valuable tool is the conversion of ratio to percentage. Most poker players find it easier to understand things as percentages than ratios.
How to Calculate Pot Odds?
Pot Size Versus Amount to Call = Pot Odds as Ratio e.g. $100: $10 or 10:1
I think it is more valuable to see this as a percentage. To convert this, we need to add the pot size and the amount to call and divide the amount to call by the total pot size. Using the example above, it would be:
$100 + $10 = $110
$10 / $110 = 9%
The Importance of Pot Odds
Understanding the maths is critical to being a long-term winner at poker. Decision making is often based on the maths aspect, is a call profitable? Are they bluffing often enough? Is this play +EV?
In order to use poker maths effectively, a poker player combines the context of the situation with the odds presented to make a profitable decision. It also allows one to manipulate the pot odds and enforce errors on the part of your opponents. This is a key skill requirement for winning poker.
Let’s look at an example of how pot odds could be used for important decision making.
Example of using Pot Odds
The pot is $50 on the turn with just the river left to come. Player A has a flush draw holding Kc 10c:
The board reads:
Player B has Ad 8d:
Player B is considering how much to bet with their top two pair. By betting $30, the pot will be $80 and Player A will be getting $30 for a pot of $110. Using the method above, we can see this can be converted to represent 27%.
With a flush draw and one card to come we know there is approximately 18% chance of Player A making the best hand, thus, the bet enforces an error on the part of Player A as they are not getting a sufficient price to make the call.
On the other hand, if Player B bets $10, Player A will have 16.6% and a turn call becomes profitable. See how important it is to size your bets?
As we can see from the above example, pot odds can influence decision making and directly impact your long-term profitability. They should be used in combination with your hand reading, context and implied odds. One of the great things about poker is you are in control of your decisions. By understanding odds and relative hand strength, you can learn to manipulate pot sizes and how you want to and enforce mistakes from opponents.
If you are interested in poker maths and record keeping read my poker spreadsheet article from below.
This article was originally written in 2020 and has been updated.